Monday, September 14, 2009

My Angry Letter


The Oakland Tribune newspaper printed my 'Letter to the Editor' on Friday, Sept 11! A little background for those who don't live in the San Fran Area : the Bay Bridge is the main arterial roadway between San Francisco & Oakland/East Bay (260k cars every day), and during the Labor Day weekend (in 09 as well as 06 and 07), it was closed down for seismic improvements. This year, the planned closure was Thursday night-Tuesday morning, but Caltrans inspectors on Saturday found a crack in one of the supports, and warned that the Bridge may not open as planned Tuesday morning. Indeed, at 5pm Monday, they announced the bridge would remain closed til 5am Wednesday.
That sent commuters into worry and despair - Friday it had been closed, but many people had days off planned, etc etc. Tuesday would be a nightmare, and they encouraged people to get an early start on Wednesday's commute.
Lo and behold, Caltrans called a press conference at 6:15am Tuesday, to announce the Bridge would reopen at 7am. OK - it was great to have it open. But Caltrans obviously knew hours ahead of time exactly when they could get it open. Why did they not inform local news at 4am or even 5am, of the specifics?? Because - they wanted to be glory hounds and hold people in sway. Read on, for the text of my letter :


I congratulate the difficult tasks the Bay Bridge workers completed in an incredible amount of time this weekend. However, I am irked at the atrocious timing of Caltrans' announcement reopening the Bay Bridge.

It was absurd to have waited until 6:15 a.m. to declare the bridge would reopen at 7 a.m. By this time, thousands of commuters were already stuck in traffic at the other toll plazas, or crammed onto BART, or huddled at ferry terminals. All of whom were getting an early jump on expected traffic, at Caltrans' behest.

Why wasn't this announcement made earlier, or at least released to local media, at a time when more commuters could have used this information? I know why — because Caltrans wished for a grand stage, a bright spotlight, to soak up accolades and make themselves look heroic.

There was a similar incident recently, in which repairs to a steel panel on the lower deck were finished ahead of schedule. Instead of waiting for traffic to quell, Caltrans actually shut the bridge down at 7 p.m. on a weekday, completely stopping eastbound traffic for more than an hour, just so the local news would give them undivided attention. Unbelievable and disgraceful.

Perhaps if they truly had the best interests of commuters in mind, we would have much smoother traffic flow, and not just news conferences and talking heads.

Support your local media!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Summer Goes

Here it is, September 1. So, where has the summer gone? Well, I've been working a lot. Since my last update, most every Saturday, even a bunch of Sundays. In fact, this past weekend was the first day off after 28 in a row... And this week, already put in an 18-hour day (something I don't think I even did at Weta). The end is in sight, but still could be a few days out. (They're yet debating whether people will be called in on Labor Day). One other work event : they had scheduled the company picnic for Saturday the 18th, but, in deference to people's workload, they brought the picnic to us. They set up grills in the parking lot between the hangars, put up a bouncy house and inflatable slip'n'slide for the kids, and had live music. Bonnie came out and got to see the workplace, and meet some of my coworkers. And I got to catch up w/ people's families that I hadn't seen in a while.
Anyway, enough about work, here's what I've been doing for play : July 24th, saw the new Miyazaki film, Ponyo. Magical tale, about the sea squaring off against man's encroaching progress, and a bond of love that bridges the gap between worlds. Pretty simple story, one of MIyazaki's more simple and juvenile movies, and a little creepy to have such a strong romantic-style dynamic between 6-year-old characters (esp to a Westerner who isn't steeped in Japanese tradition and honor code). The fun aspect was that this was an advanced screening, Ponyo didn't come out at theatres till a couple later. Miyazaki himself spoke at a presentation at UC Berkeley the following day, but I decided not to go.
The next weekend, I got to see an old-school metal band, Sadus at the new Oakland Metro, and meet my favorite metal bassist, Steve DiGiorgio . The strangest part about the show was the pre-teen daughter of one of the band members was there with all her school friends. Like the crowd at a Jonas Brothers, but backstage at the Metro... Saturday evening we got comps for the Joe Goode Dance Performance at the SF Old Mint. Really oustanding performance, they made use of the space where audience moved from room to room, dancers came in and out, and the interacted or played out scenarios between the rooms. Sunday, we saw Shotgun Players' free outdoor theatre performance of "Animal Farm", done as a hiphop musical, in a Mad Max world. Came across very well, very engaging and very physical.
The next weekend was Nicole's birthday, Bonnie took her out of town for some camping/hiking in Yosemite. And my college friend Joe Behl was in town! (Dark Side represent!). We met up with him, and another ex-coworker friend of his who lives in SF, for drinks at Jupiter, then I got togther with them Saturday night for Memphis Minnie's BBQ and beers at The Toronado. The weekend after (Aug 15 / 16), Saturday was "the Big Idea" at YBCA arts museum (of which I am a member). Sunday, had some friends (Ed, Nina, M) over for a BBQ.
Let's see... trying to piece together the itinerary from my Edgar Allen Poe planner calendar... can't recall what was up for Aug22/23rd. Worked both days, and I did have to cancel band practice, partially because Jimmy had technical problems. Still bums me out to do it, feel like I'm losing out, and losing ground with getting the band gigs... Saturday we caught "Film Night in the Park" : "On the Waterfront". Bonnie had never seen it & didn't realize how iconic it was ("I coulda been a contender"). Ah yes, because mine (and Bonnie's) evening was suddenly freed up, on a whim we went out to the Solano Drive-in in Concord. Fun movie-going time, and it's great to see a place like this still open. Concessions was unbelievable - only $18 for a pizza, pretzel, popcorn, 2 drinks, and candy. Oh, we saw G.I. Joe, which was awful but mildly entertaining, and we were able to make fun of it loudly the whole time. It's a double feature at the drive-in, but I couldn't handle the thought of watching Transformers 2 starting at 11 PM, and facing a half-hour drive home after that... Oh, other movies we've seen in that stretch are "Food, Inc" (scary stuff, know what you're eating!), and "500 Days of Summer" which was well-done and stirred some interesting conversation between us.
During the week, caught later dinner with Tom Gilx at Marc 49. The next weekend (29th/30th) : Friday, the 28th was a show by Shelley Doty at Caffe Trieste in Berekeley. Awesome night with a lot of folks, pulling out all the stops! Saturday, after work, we went into Oakland for the Eat Real Festival. It was nice to walk around outside and sample a variety of foods (and beers) but the lines were very long, and places were closing down by that time of day.
Sunday, I actually took a day off & we went down to the Niles Flea Market , which is basically a big yard sale in an old-town district of Fremont. But it really does spark the community - you walk around the side streets, and every other house has a yard sale, people hanging out, kids running lemonade stands. I mainly went down to catch up with some old friends and hang out (some of the very first people I met when I moved to the Bay Area and started at Tippett Studio), so that was great.
That brings us to the present - after the day off, I put in an 19 hour day (well, with a lunch break) to get our sequence ready to finish this week (got home after 2am). Like I said, the end is coming up this week (or next) - it'll be great to see everyone's hard work payoff!
Just a note for Michigan folk reading this - the "Chistmas Carol" Train tour makes its stop, at the Henry Ford Museum! Check it out.